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Silos belong on farms, not your conference strategic plans.
Unfortunately, most of us are familiar with the traditional company departmental silo model. As is your conference planning process!
We work, live and breathe in silos on a daily basis.
Social media streamlines silos
So it is with social media. It is often compartmentalized into one departmental silo although it actually crosses all departments.
When your potential conference participants call your office, they don’t care who or which department answers the phone. They just want their questions answered.
So it is with social media. When they post a question or comment in a social media platform, they don’t care which department responds. They just want a response to their post. They expect a streamlined experience with your organization. They don’t want to deal with the registration silo and then the education silo and then the meetings silo to get their questions answered.
Customers are the next-generation competitive differentiators
Social media has enabled potential meeting participants to communicate with each other in real time across various online platforms with little investment. They ask each other for advice about specific events or if their online friends are attending a conference. They can quickly set a firestorm of negative comments about your conference if their experience was not worth their investment. And that can affect other potential participants’ decisions on whether to register or not.
Savvy conference hosts are monitoring, listening and participating in these online conversations. They have earned an invitation by loyal participants to get involved with the online discussion. They keep the organizational bravado and sales to a minimum and instead help their customers.
This means conference hosts must build a social core that streamlines departmental silos in the name of customer engagement. They have to become more customer-centric than they have been in the past. They can’t expect potential customers just to come to their website and get all the answers. Customers are savvier than that and go directly to past participants for advice of whether to attend.
Your customers are your next-generation competitive differentiators...or not!
3 social media customer-centric value adds
Here are three customer-centric value adds of social media for today’s conferences paraphrased from author Jim Whaley of 1to1 Media. These social media value adds should help you persuade the C-suite on why you need a potential meeting participant socially augmented engagement strategy.
1. A personalized meeting participant experience. Your participants’ conference experience is a powerful force that can cement their loyalty to your organization. This experience starts with their first touchpoint of your conference, way before they ever register. It continues past the physical end of the conference. That experience can make or break your conference.
As a conference host, you can fuel online communities and blogs with content from the upcoming event or from online participant conversations. This is a great way to extend the face-to-face experience by offering exclusive, insider’s content based on self-proclaimed online participants’ input, thoughts and conversations.
Conference hosts can also identify potential needs and interests based on their social media posts and use that information to drive conference content and speakers. This creates a personal, individualized conference experience.
2. Invest in LTR (Long Term Relationships). Most conference hosts are terrible at customer loyalty. We rarely invest energy and time into developing long term relationships with our participants. Most of conference organizers don’t even know what percentage of their attendance is repeat attendance.
Social media allows conference hosts the opportunity to develop LTR with the participants and potential participants. By nurturing online conversations, conference hosts are enabling two-way dialogue which increases LTR. This helps organizations stay aware of their customers’ needs, likes and dislikes. It sustains a flow of organizational messaging which many customers actually like.
3. Actionable participant insights. Most conference organizers rely on committees and traditional surveys to get research information about their event. Social media opens up this model to new ways to get actionable participant insights. It provides a host of new ways to get feedback.
Often, a conference’s most vocal fans turn to social media to express their views. Imagine if the conference organizers harnessed these fans and created ambassador panels for insight and messaging.
Social media tactics such as interactive online polls, targeted feedback on actual conference experiences, and sentiment analytics can provide useful and practical information. It can also improve the organization’s feedback strategies.
Social media amplifies conference conversations
Ultimately social media is an integrated way members and participants now communicate with organizations. These new amplified online conversations are a drastic change from the way we communicated in the past decade. Organizations must align their conference planning strategy to match these new feedback methods.
Online customer engagement should be aligned with your core conference business. It should not be an add-on to your strategy. In the end, your customers will reward you when you use social media to engage them.
What are some other ways you can use social media to gain actionable participant insights? How have you seen other organizations leverage social media to personalize the participant experience?
Jeff Hurt is education and engagement director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. This column appeared originally on his blog at Midcourse Corrections.